Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review: Earth Star by Janet Edwards

To celebrate the upcoming September 8th release of Earth Flight, the conclusion to the Earth Girl trilogy, I'm reblogging my reviews of Earth Girl (Book 1) and Earth Star (Book 2).

Review originally appeared at SFFWrtCht.

Earth Star by Janet EdwardsWith Earth Star, the engaging sequel to Earth Girl, Janet Edwards brings us a completely different sort of SF adventure while continuing the themes of discrimination, self discovery, and the emerging theme of commitment. In Earth Star Jarra suddenly finds her military connections to be of great importance as she attempts to connect the distant past with a military mystery of the present in the hopes of avoiding a future disaster. Jarra has matured as a character over the previous book yet still acts her age as she confronts a variety of personal challenges, from boyfriend to bullying issues.
The theme of discrimination has matured along with Jarra, exploring the systemic nature of such societal ills, including personal attacks directed at Jarra for her ape status. These attacks endanger not only Jarra but the mission at hand, and in turn the safety of the Earth itself. Her Earth-bound status also enters into her developing relationship, though for more practical reasons, and is one of the barriers to commitment she must overcome. Jarra also faces a phobia that threatens her ability to perform her duty, which is as dangerous as ever.

Find out if Jarra can live up to her new-found hero status in this excellently written, fast paced, hard SF adventure.

Earth Girl
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Star
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Flight
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]

Janet Edwards
Website ] [ Interview ]

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

To celebrate the upcoming September 8th release of Earth Flight, the conclusion to the Earth Girl trilogy, I'm reblogging my reviews of Earth Girl (Book 1) and Earth Star (Book 2).

Review originally appeared at SFFWrtCht.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards brings us to Jarra’s Earth, in the year 2788, when travel between the stars is as easy as stepping through a portal. Except that, for “throwbacks” like Jara, the other side of that portal means death by anaphylactic shock due to an inherited fault in their immune system. Jara knows this first hand, because as soon as she turned of legal age, she exercised her legal right to leave Earth. She only survived because a medical team was on alert, waiting to transport her back and save her life. But there can’t always be someone waiting on the other side of her mistakes. Now she decides to join an archaeological dig team of “norms” and pretend to be from off-world so that she can spit in the face of their prejudice against “apes.” When her lies put her life in danger, what she learns has more to do with herself than her foreign peers.

Janet Edwards gives us a book to lose ourselves in, from a well-crafted backstory of Earth’s depopulation to the coming-of-age romance of an off-kilter archaeology nerd. Before we even get to the first life-and-death-scene, we’re wowed by NYC in ruins and the future tech the team uses to excavate it, complete with environmental suits and specialized vehicles. The sparse future terminology and lingo, such as “tag points” and “amaz,” feel natural and are easy to understand. The archaeology, history, and tech are all welded together in a way that makes the exposition feel like action, because each piece of data is so closely tied to plot. There’s also a bit of kissing, offscreen sex, and many emotional moments driven by the camaraderie of team work and near-death experiences.

Interesting scifi setting? Check. People dying? Check. There’s also a strong underpinning of the softer sciences – psychology and sociology, to be precise. Jarra’s self-discoveries build us a multidimensional look at social prejudice in her universe, one that eventually crushes her immature us v. them paradigm. Many of the assumptions that Jarra has at the beginning of the novel, mostly regarding people that she knows nothing about, like her parents, eventually shatter under the weight of opposing fact. Through this process, we get to meet many fascinating characters and, through them, their diverse birth worlds and cultures.

Earth Girl sports a robust first-person voice that fills out Edwards’ smart female protagonist. Smart, as long as you don’t count common sense. Many of Jarra’s beliefs and life decisions are unrealistic, like her determination to check that she will die if she visits another world. Some of this determination stems from her core strength, her ability to commit fully to a decision if there is even the slightest chance that something will be gained. This is part of what makes her a good tag leader and what leads to many of her heroic actions. Yet, Edwards also shows us, before Jarra even meets her intended “norm” victims, that Jarra can at times become disconnected from reality and fall prey to magical thinking. It’s great to have a risk-taker who’s willing to save your life. It’s scary to have a risk-taker basing their risk assessments on pure fantasy.

Told through Jarra’s unreliable perspective, Earth Girl is a fascinating blend of delusion and reality. But most of all, Edwards captures the wonderful feeling of discovery, both of the physical world and of the self. Find out more about the amaz Earth Girl and upcoming sequels:

Earth Girl
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Star
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]
Earth Flight
Amazon ] [ Goodreads ]

Janet Edwards
Website ] [ Interview ]

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: Witchfinder by Sarah A Hoyt

 [ Amazon ] [ Smashwords ]
In Witchfinder by Sarah A. Hoyt, Seraphim Ainsling and Gabriel Penn secretly defy the king's edict to rescue witches facing death on other Earths. Meanwhile, Nell strives to ransom her lover's freedom by spying on Duke Seraphim, and so finds herself caught up in the Duke's heroic escapades. After Sydell, the king's spy, confronts Nell for the information she owes him, an attack on Seraphim and Gabriel throws the three of them into the spiral of a much larger plot that could destroy Avalon, Fairyland, and the surrounding alternate Earths.

Witchfinder boasts a fine balance of female and male protagonist voices headed by Nell, Gabriel, and Seraphim. Although it may appear at first as if Seraphim is the typical heroic main character, Nell quickly comes into the mix as an equally powerful voice, and Gabriel becomes more important as the larger plot unfolds. Seraphim, Nell, and Gabriel's intertwining paths culminate in magical battles that shake the foundation of their worlds.

Hoyt brings us a fun twist on the heroic trope of a knight who runs off into danger, saving maidens along the way. The many iterations of Avalon, most of them calling themselves Earth, provide everything from fairies and dragons to the machines and iron of the modern world.

Witchfinder's plot proves as complicated as its multiverse, evoking comparisons to Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber. But where Zelazny gave us a plethora of princes and princesses at war, Hoyt offers us compassionate characters with deeper ties of brotherhood and romance.

Witchfinder is an epic adventure fantasy that draws the reader along on a enthralling journey of heroism through colorful alternate universes, pitting cousin against cousin and human against fairy as greed threatens to destroy all.

You can read the beginning of Witchfinder [ here ], and purchase the book on [ Amazon ] and [ Smashwords ].

As a bonus, Witchfinder has an interesting real-world origin: it started out as chapters posted to Sarah A. Hoyt's blog. Hoyt is posting Rogue Magic, Book 2 [ here ].

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: Noah's Boy by Sarah A Hoyt

Noah's Boy (Shifter Book 3) by Sarah A. Hoyt continues with Kyrie and Tom and their shifter friends as they must again assert themselves against older shifters, but what they don't know is that bigger baddies wait behind the proverbial curtain. This time, they learn about the origin of shifters and become uncomfortably intimate with the Great Sky Dragon's powers. The couple also comes to acknowledge the growing group of shifters that have become friends and allies over the past two books.

I enjoy how Noah's Boy adds a distinctive science fiction spin to this hitherto urban fantasy series. Everything we learn in this book brings tidbits in the first two books to life, giving that delicious feeling of aha! This new depth has the potential to carry the series through several more entertaining books.

The magic/science also adds further weight to the theme of self-agency that permeates the series, from ancient dragons demanding things to romance and sex. Oh, and on that note, there is a sex crime in this book, so, trigger warning for that. Sarah Hoyt realistically handles the issue, framing it as a violation of self-agency. Mixed in with this weighty issue is the question of what makes people human – but you'll have to read the book to learn how that comes up.

Rafiel's character gets a boost in Noah's Boy as well, and if you like how Tom and Kyrie have turned out, you'll enjoy this new pairing. Personally, I appreciate that Hoyt does not follow the typical love triangle plot, and that the two couples are also very different from each other.

Sarah Hoyt once again brings a complicated plot that draws together beautifully at the end, complete with dragon fire and viscous, ancient shifters. The character continue to be refreshingly strong through their principals and their self-awareness, which is something I don't often see in urban fantasy or adventure SF. I'm gunning for the next book!

Amazon ] [ Sarah A. Hoyt ]

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Gentleman Takes a Chance by Sarah A Hoyt

In Gentleman Takes a Chance (Shifter Book 2) by Sarah A. Hoyt, newly established owners of The George come up against other shifters who have come to investigate the deaths from the end of book one, Draw One in the Dark.

Kyrie and Tom know that they have a long road ahead of them, and that's just counting the everyday things – their not-quite-intimate relationship, their makeover of The George, and generally establishing themselves in a new town. In Gentleman Takes a Chance” the new couple get a chance the blossom in these roles, if they can keep busybodies from either blowing their cover or killing them. Oh, and if Tom can keep from breaking any more bathrooms in dragon form.

In book one, we met the Great Sky Dragon and the triad he controls. Gentleman Takes a Chance expands upon this while adding other ancient shifters who also think they have a say in Kyrie and Tom's lives. These ancient shifters claim that they care about the deaths Kyrie and Tom and their friends have caused, but they arrive conspicuously after the fact and do quite a poor job of investigating in the name of their simplistic and elitist laws. Kyrie and Tom note this as they assert their own moral code and their own version of events. In this way Hoyt neatly continues a theme of responsibility and agency that goes far beyond simply owning up to a superpower like shifting. If anything, Tom and Kyrie strive to hold themselves to the same standards as other humans, which is hard to do while seemingly all-powerful elders are taking deadly swipes at you.

The denouement surprises me. After an appropriately climatic battle at the end, there comes another battle, this one more private and less blow-by-blow. Having now read the third book, I can confirm what I suspected at the end of book two, that Hoyt is setting us up for a bigger plot with bigger bad guys.

A Gentleman Takes a Chance shows a lot of character growth while still bringing the reader plenty of action. In fact, I think book 2 outshines book 1 because of its superb balance of character growth and action. Hoyt fleshes out her theme of agency quite well in this coming-of-age narrative, providing a good backbone for the book 3, Noah's Boy.

Books 1 and 2 are also available as an omnibus titled Night Shifters. Wouldn't that look amazing on your shelf?

I jumped immediately into the third book, so look out for my review of Noah's Boy.

Amazon ] [ Omnibus ] [ Sarah A. Hoyt ]